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Monday, 28 May 2012

Sea Kayaking Glenmore lodge course

Some time ago Ana had booked a sea kayaking course at Glenmore lodge: Glenmore lodge is the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre which is part funded by the government and this is money well spent as the quality of the courses, instructors and equipment is second to none.

When the weather forecast displayed temperatures up to 27 degrees for Aviemore for the whole weekend we knew that that we were in for a winner. The course was £235 per person for two days which included top notch equipment (sea kayak, paddle, wet suit, cagoule etc.), a 1:5 instructor to client ratio, accommodation at the lodge from Friday to Sunday and quality food from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon.

I arrived Friday evening and it was already gorgeous with the car thermometer displaying 25 degrees at time.   Here is loch Morlich with the still snowy Northern corries behind. A cold night and a winter climb is still possible.
 On Saturday we met Mike and Stuart, the very experienced instructors. We first practiced turning upside down and leaving the kayak in the Glenmore lodge pool. All fine. We then loaded all the kayaks onto the big trailer and went onto loch Morlich where we paddled in the sun and worked in two 5er groups on our technique: forward, turning in a circle and upside down, getting back into the kayak alone and without help and a few fast strokes. Rather good at well over 20 degrees.
Glenmore lodge provides a packed lunch for a break on the shore.
A wee bit of theory about tides and all that and then a pint at the bar. Mike and Stuart decided to drive us in the Glenmore van plus kayak trailer across the Moray firth over Kessock bridge to launch our kayaks on the other side. Again a gorgeous day.
 We paddled under the bridge in calm waters...
 ... on the Northern shore eastwards...
 ... to find a great place for lunch.
 We then caught the inflowing tide with more waves and practised paddling 90 degrees to the waves and surfed the odd wave.
 Under Kessock bridge the waves were chaotic going in all directions due to the currents, wind...
 ... and we were riding a strong current but with few waves to our launch point.
 Here we practised rescues again in salt water and then went back to the lodge on the happy bus.

Overall the weekend was one of the most enjoyable and we are now fully fired up to do some more sea kayaking. The course and other courses by Glenmore lodge and other providers are much recommended especially for beginners and intermediates as the instructors will ensure a good day and good skills. Also Glenmore lodge courses are a good idea for those coming from abroad who not only the full Scottish breakfast but also full Scottish action. Both is guaranteed!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Clashrodney: first evening trad outside

Here in Aberdeen the weather was undecided whether to stay wintry or to allow spring to proceed. Finally the tide seem to have shifted and it got warm. Brian, Jackie and I were heading to Clashrodney for some trad mileage. First Stiletto, a HS on the red slab.
 Then Capitol wall VS 4b followed by Birthday treat E1 5a, which was my first E1. A good, sustained climb with a rest ledge in the middle.
 We then went over to the Johnny's Dangler area past the waterfall...
 ... where Brian climbed 'Schoolboy Alcoholic VS 4c instead of the E2 he wanted to climb.
 Went taking the previous photo I saw a seal which was ill, tired and coughing. I took a photo with the zoom and left quickly.

Finally sun & Ben Vrackie

Finally the Sun arrived in the North East of Scotland and at the same time Declan Lunny, the Irishman in Singapore. We decided on a quick hillwalk, Ben Vrackie, near Pitlochry. Perthshire landscapes to start with.
Here the team, Irwin, Dec and myself. Bob and the ladies are not shown.
Halfway up is poachers loch if you know what I mean.
A straight forward, non boggy walk. Early or late would have been good for photos but this is not too bad. The view up the Tay.
There was still good snow cover in the Cairngorms in the distance.
Irwin and the iphone team shot.
And the team with better views to the East.
The straight forward descent towards Pitlochry...
... where we went to the Moulin Inn, a Scottish favourite. I went on to Aberdeen to catch the sunset over the Montrose basin.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Fannaichs and the Grampian Alps

Aberdeen is currently grey, grey, grey. It seems as if the North East does not reward its people for enduring the long winter with its short, dark days. A colleague of mine, Kuno, was here for science and Munros and a local colleague of mine, Christian joined in for some outdoor action. The forecast was wintry and so it was a pleasant surprise when we woke up under blue skies in the Aultguish Inn, one of the unique Highland Inns. The others are the Cluanie Inn and the Crask Inn plus and then of course Young Roddie's place, the Cluanie Inn plus the Kingshouse in Glen Coe. The Aultguish is run by an Italian chef and his Scottish wife. It is far away from anyway apart from Munros. The food is excellent and I remember some oustanding Oxtail cooked up by the chef himself. The only downside is that the kitchen closes at 8 pm (ish) as the owners have to serve the thirsty hillwalkers waiting for a pint. Here is Kuno in front of the Aultguish on Saturday morning/
Plan A was to scramble over An Teallach and then to stay in Shenavall bothy. I am hesitant to use any bad word against the Mountain Bothy Association which do a fantastic job in maintaining bothies but closing Shenavall on the May bank holiday weekend is less than ideal. Having said that these guys also need to find some free time to do their much appreciated work. So we changed plan and walked up to do some hills in the Fannaichs. Here are Kuno and Christian walking up the glen under blue skies...
 ... crossing rivers ...
 ... and then ascending the hillside under not so blue skies.
We reached the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala and then walked around the corrie to ascend Sgurr Mor. On our way we managed to have a good luck at the buttresses on Sgurr nan Clach Geala which host oustanding winter climbs including Skyscraper buttress and several great looking gullies.
 The clouds lifted for a while and snow and spring go well together.
 Here is Kuno approaching Sgurr Mor.
 Again a period of fog, snow and hail on the descent. We managed to drift off the wrong side but soon corrected our course to reach the bealach. A long way down over another hill. Here are Christian and Kuno leaving the snowzone.
 Day two was supposed to be worse and for that reason Christian had left the night before. So Kuno and decided to follow the coast and then head towards Aviemore. We had a good view of our plan A, An Teallach, which did not materialise the day before. A lot of snow had fallen over night.
 Onwards to Gairloch and its beach...
 ... via Slioch not in the best light for photography.
We drove to Aviemore where we stopped in the Old Bridge Inn for some food. I had a grilled sea bream with potatoes and a salad for £15. Great quality cooked with the odd wee twist, good service and not too expensive. Suitably fed we walked up to Corrie an Sneachda for Kuno's first winter climb. We chose Jacobs ladder.
The neve was solid all the way and the cornice was almost non existent. Brilliant condition. I had one rope and sling which are shown in the next photo with Kuno sitting in a comfortable bucket seat below.
 On the way to the car we saw one of the Cairngorms reindeers which patiently endured me taking a photo.
A good outing but the cold can now really go please... unless it brings Skyscraper buttress in condition on a day when I have time to climb it!

Upside down in Loch Faskally

Ana and I decided to start a new hobby which is sea kayaking. The only problem with that hobby is that the sports instrument is over 5 m long and does not fit inside our flat. In the Brookbank catalogue I noted a Trak T1600 folding kayak for a rather steep £2600 and soon after a T1600 appeared on Ebay. Without much thinking I put a maximal bid in and by Sunday I was the proud owner of a nearly new T1600 for a very good price. It arrived on a Wednesday in a large roller bag weighing 29 kg. Here is how it is assembled: I practiced it once in Ana's corridor (not recommended) and put it together in less than 15 min on the shores of Loch Faskally. Surprisingly slick. Especially the hydraulic jacks that tension the hull are great engineering. A Brompton for the water. Here it is...
 ... and here are Giulio and Ana sharing the other paddle in the inflatable Costa Dundonia. I came up with that tasteless name after too much wine at a dinner party.
Here I am paddling the Trak. I can not compare it to other Kayaks other than the Costa Dundonia but it seems fast and seems serious. After paddling upstream to see the bungee jumping and down the Loch I practised edging up to the point where I found myself upside down in the waters of Loch Faskallie, staring a perplexed trout right in the eye.
As I had not practised any Eskimo manoeuvres I got out of the kayak and managed to get in relatively quickly helped by Ana and Giulio. The bilge pump, purchased just hours previously, did a good job and soon I was paddling back looking somewhat sheepish. We packed it all up - again no problem - and went for a soup and apple pie to the Moulin Hotel, one of the best places in Scotland to have food and a pint after the great outdoors.